12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (2024)

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (1)


Carolyn Spencer Brown

Last updated

Jan 8, 2020

Read time

7 min read

On This Page

  • Start With the Suitcase
  • Pack Smart
  • Prevent Wrinkles
  • Go Country Club Casual
  • Plan to Layer
  • Mix and Match
  • Remember What Not to Pack
  • Leave Extra Space
  • Pack for Port Days
  • Embrace the Launderette
  • Avoid Lugging Books
  • Don't Forget About the Carry-On

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (2)

(Photo: elena moiseeva/Shutterstock)

Packing for a longer-than-usual voyage has one thing in common with any other cruise: Airlines will limit you to one or two checked bags (sometimes you will have to pay for all, other times you'll get one free) and will charge you mercilessly if they're overweight. But unlike with a shorter cruise, it's hard to get away with just a carry-on when you're packing for weeks away from home.

With a little practice and forethought, you can easily master the art of packing for a long cruise. To get you started, here are some lessons to share -- including some we've learned the hard way.

Start With the Suitcase

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (3)

Start With the Suitcase (Photo: duckeesue/Shutterstock.com)

Efficient packing starts with the right suitcase. Begin by identifying a bag that is large enough to fit a couple of weeks' worth of clothing and shoes -- but not so large that airlines levy an extra charge for it. We like 26- or 27-inch sized bags that can expand when necessary (like this TravelPro). You will have to check them, but they can fit quite a bit without running into overage fees. Other features to look for: smooth rolling (try four wheels rather than two, or "spinner" wheels), bright colors for easy ID on the baggage belt, and pockets and pouches for stashing essentials or separating your belongings

Pack Smart

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (4)

Pack Smart (Photo: www.BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock.com)

A good first packing step is to lay out the suitcase, empty, and do a visualization exercise. If you're traveling straight to the ship, you don't need to worry too much about what goes where. But when you have a pre-cruise hotel stay, you may want to pack outfits for the first day or two on the top so you don’t have to burrow to the bottom to get what you need. Some travelers also swear by packing supplies like compression bags or packing cubes.

Prevent Wrinkles

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (5)

Prevent Wrinkles (Photo: gyn9037/Shutterstock.com)

Worried about wrinkles? Leave sweaters and blouses (pants, too) in dry cleaning bags; you can roll them all up together. Linen’s probably the only fabric for which this doesn’t work. Place the rolled-up wrinklies on top of a pile of small stuff (like socks and undergarments) so they’re held in place. While the plastic takes up a fair amount of space, you don't have to worry about it when packing for home, giving you extra room in the suitcase for new purchases. (A travel-sized anti-wrinkle spray is also nice to throw in.)

Go Country Club Casual

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (6)

Go Country Club Casual (Photo: Azamara Club Cruises)

These days, “country club casual” is the uniform dress code, day or night, for most cruise lines. But what does that mean? Pack clothes that are casual in a stylish way; for example, cute bathing suit cover-ups and shorts outfits, rather than ripped T-shirts and cut-off jean shorts. Evenings tend to be more business casual -- nice skirt/slacks and sweater sets or a dress for women, and dress shirts with or without jackets for men.

Formal nights are a bit more challenging for light packers, although the good news is that fewer people actually dress to the nines these days. If you can, bring some jewelry that can make your country club casual outfit a little nicer, or a sparkly top that can mix and match. Men, consider renting your tux onboard (or skip it all together and pack a jacket that can dress almost anything up). On long cruises, it's perfectly fine to wear the same outfit twice.

Plan to Layer

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (7)

Plan to Layer (Photo: Julia Sudnitskaya/Shutterstock.com)

One challenge for long cruises is that climate zones can vary wildly. Layering, and limiting your stash to cottons (from T-shirts to sweaters), is a good way to manage weather challenges. Cottons are less bulky than woolens and just as warm if you layer your outfit properly (though you should throw in one cold weather sweater just in case). Instead of a raincoat, tuck a small umbrella into your suitcase. And whenever you have a choice, pack for comfort, not style, especially in the shoe department -- we'll give you extra points if you can combine the two.

Mix and Match

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (8)

Mix and Match (Photo: GoodMood Photo/Shutterstock.com)

By sticking to one color palette (such as a black base, with a series of both black and white t-shirts and trousers and light cotton sweaters with a pop of color), you create a mix-and-match wardrobe. This plan will save you suitcase space, free you up from remembering which top was meant to go with which bottom, and make it easier to pare down your shoe selection.

Also in the versatility department, bring outfits you can dress up for dinner onboard with accessories then wear more casually with walking shoes in port the next day. It will save you from having to pack two new outfits for each day.

Remember What Not to Pack

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (9)

Remember What Not to Pack (Photo: photoBeard/Shutterstock.com)

It's tempting to pack those one-of-a-kind outfits you rarely wear at home, but on a long cruise, you simply don't have room. Resist taking distinctive items you'll wear only once. Maximizing your luggage capacity is the top rule of packing for a long cruise. Be ruthless when it comes to paring down your belongings to take only what's necessary. You don't have space for indulgences, especially if you want to do some shopping in port.

Leave Extra Space

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (10)

Leave Extra Space (Photo: Anatoly Tiplyashin/Shutterstock.com)

Now about that shopping…. Leave extra space in your luggage, so you can pick up something new from one (or several) of your ports of call. Clothing is a great souvenir, and you can purchase some memorable pieces in port. Given the amount of luggage you're already schlepping, you do not want to find yourself forced to buy an extra suitcase to cart your stuff home. (Though if you do, the suitcase itself can become a valued souvenir.) Another option is to pack a foldable tote or duffel to bring your finds home.

Pack for Port Days

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (11)

Pack for Port Days (Photo: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com)

When planning your packing, it’s easy to focus on what you’ll need onboard the cruise ship. But having the right wardrobe for exploring in ports of call is essential. For example, when visiting the Middle East, you might need long-sleeved shirts and ankle-length trousers to visit mosques in Muscat, but also rugged pants and shoes to ride donkeys in Petra.

Always pack a light scarf (women) or hat (men); you may need to cover your head when visiting religious attractions or protect yourself from the sun. (This is not the time to splurge on a splashy Hermes pattern, keep it simple.)

Embrace the Launderette

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (12)

Embrace the Launderette (Photo: Rocksweeper/Shutterstock.com)

Most cruise lines that offer long cruises have laundry facilities onboard. Many charge for the service, though luxury lines often have free self-serve launderettes. The cruise line will provide soap (sometimes for a fee); you can also pack your own travel-sized detergent. It can be annoying to queue for machines and then wait for your cycles to finish, but think of the experience as a great way to meet other passengers.

Definitely not free but more appealing on a long, port-intensive cruise is the ship’s laundry service; most offer both dry cleaning and basic laundry. Passengers who book top cabins, or who are loyal to a cruise line, often get it for free. Note: River cruise lines feature similar laundry services but typically do not offer dry cleaning.

Avoid Lugging Books

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (13)

Avoid Lugging Books (Photo: Bloomua/Shutterstock.com)

Many cruise lines have vastly downgraded onboard libraries (though Cunard and Oceania are among those that offer a great selection of titles), so you'll be tempted to pack a lot of books, from travel guides to light fiction for sea days. Consider an e-book reader as a necessary travel companion on a longer trip. It doesn't matter if you choose a Sony Reader, Nook, Kindle or iPad -- they'll all save you vital luggage space.

Don't Forget About the Carry-On

12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (14)

Don't Forget About the Carry-On (Photo: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock.com)

And finally, on long-haul trips, you may spend a lot of time traipsing through airports and waiting at border control, and the last thing you’ll want to do is fight with your stuff. Make it easy for yourself by ensuring that your carry-on is as easy to move as your large bag. Truth is, you'll spend more time lugging that around. Whether you prefer a shoulder bag, backpack or a small rolling duffle, find a bag that offers as much room as possible within your airline's carry-on limits. One last tip: Check the impulse to splurge on duty-free while at the airport. You’ll have to carry that around, too.

Cruise Critic is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by promoting and linking to Amazon.com.

Publish date

January 08, 2020

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12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise (2024)


12 Tips for Packing for a Long Cruise? ›

As you pack for your world cruise voyage, consider the regions of the world you'll be visiting and the time of year you'll be there. Tropical destinations usually mean beach casual and swim suits. In colder locales you'll need layers - jackets and sweaters - or outerwear depending on the cold-weather activities.

How do you pack a cruise efficiently? ›

Packing Light for a Cruise: Tips for Efficient Travel
  1. Create a Packing List. First, compile a cruise packing checklist as a jump board. ...
  2. Invest in a Hard-Shell Suitcase. ...
  3. Pack a Carry-on Bag. ...
  4. Choose Functional Outfits. ...
  5. Sort Out Your Day and Evening Wear. ...
  6. Don't Forget to Layer. ...
  7. Pack the Right Footwear. ...
  8. Get Travel Size Products.
Nov 14, 2023

What to pack for a 100 day cruise? ›

As you pack for your world cruise voyage, consider the regions of the world you'll be visiting and the time of year you'll be there. Tropical destinations usually mean beach casual and swim suits. In colder locales you'll need layers - jackets and sweaters - or outerwear depending on the cold-weather activities.

How many outfits should I pack for a 7 day cruise? ›

You should average two outfits per day, as you'll wear one during the day and one at night for dinner. I find that I like to re-wear at least two or three outfits at night to save space. Plus, I just don't like having to plan seven different outfits for each night. This, however, is a personal preference.

What are you not allowed to bring on a cruise ship? ›

Banned Items on Cruise Ships: List
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Illegal Drugs. ...
  • CBD. ...
  • Weapons, Ammunition & Imitation Weapons. ...
  • Knives, or Scissors with blades longer than 4inches. ...
  • Irons & Steamers. ...
  • Extension Leads. ...
  • Coffee Maker, Kettles, and Hot Plates.

How much money should you carry on a cruise? ›

Most guests bring $50-$120 cash per day to spend during the cruise. You will have many opportunities to purchase duty free goods, take exciting shore excursions, buy local souvenirs, play your chance in the casino, or enjoy some pampering in the spa.

How do you pack for a cruise so clothes don't wrinkle? ›

Rolling Clothes

Rolling is the best way to keep your clothes wrinkle-free since your clothes are tightly rolled without any hard creases. To avoid creases, fold your clothes along the seams and smooth out any wrinkles. Then roll your clothes. Don't skip the middle step of smoothing out wrinkles.

What money should I take on a cruise? ›

It's also recommended you bring a couple of credit cards and travellers' cheques. What you can rest easy about is the fact that meals, amenities and most onboard activities and entertainment are already included in the price of your cruise, as are your drinks if you purchased one of the drink packages.

Can you bring a 12 pack of soda on a cruise? ›

Bringing Liquor and Beverages On Board - Embarkation

A small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12-ounces/354-ml each or less, per person.

How many pairs of shoes should you take on a cruise? ›

How to Pack Your Shoes. Remember not to pack the pair of shoes that make the most sense for you to wear to your cruise. Of the five pairs of shoes you bring, you will wear one pair and pack the other four pairs in your luggage. Yes, your five sets of shoes include the pair on your feet.

How strict are cruise dress code? ›

A good rule of thumb for cruisers is to always pack at least one pair of long pants that are not jeans, for dinners onboard. As far as dress prohibitions, cruise lines tend to follow policies similar to airlines, disallowing guests from wearing clothing bearing messages that are distasteful or patently offensive.

What do most people wear on a cruise ship? ›

On warm-weather cruises, loungewear and beachwear are suitable both onboard and off the ship. Pack T-shirts, tank tops and other clothes that are easy to mix and match. In cooler weather, passengers will wear hiking pants, jeans and some loungewear.

Where not to go on a cruise ship? ›

You might think that pool decks on cruise ships are pretty quiet at night and into the morning, so staying in a cabin just below one is no big deal. But in the case of quite a few ships, you'd be wrong. Pool decks sometimes can be the scene of late-night revelry that's loud enough to carry down to the deck below.

Do cruise ships check your carry-on bags? ›

Just like the security screening at an airport, we also screen all luggage our guests bring onboard to ensure everyone's safety. If there is an item in your luggage that is prohibited or is believed to be prohibited, your bag will be taken to a screening location and will be inspected by our Security Team onboard.

What is illegal on a cruise ship? ›

Alcoholic Beverages Are (Mostly) Not Allowed on a Cruise Ship. Items that Are Fire Hazards Aren't Allowed on Your Cruise. Pets (Except Service Animals) Can't Board with You on a Cruise. Don't Bring Fresh Flowers or Plants on Your Ship. Drones: Flying or Remote-Controlled Devices Are Not Allowed on Cruises.

How many bags do I need for a 7 day cruise? ›

To help you plan, we suggest you limit your luggage to a maximum of one bag per person if you're travelling on a cruise of 3-5 nights, and to no more than two bags per person, for cruises of 6 days or longer.

How far in advance should I pack for a cruise? ›

First, start by making a packing list 1-2 weeks before your cruise. Making a list early on will give you an idea of what items you need to obtain for the cruise. You'll be able to make sure you have everything you need while giving you plenty of time to purchase any items.

Should I take a backpack on a cruise? ›

Bring: Backpack or Beach Bag for Excursions

The backpack you brought on the plane as your carry-on item can serve double duty as the bag you take off the ship each day, or you can bring a separate, foldable beach bag or tote for this purpose.


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